Many people are turning to fasting for weight loss and improved metabolic health, whether that be a regimen of time-restricted eating, periodic fasting or the “monk” fast.
In a new study from Brigham Young University, researchers found that exercising intensely at the start of a fast may help maximize the health benefits of temporarily foregoing food.
Ketosis occurs when the body runs out of glucose—its first, preferred fuel—and begins breaking down stored fat for energy, producing chemicals called ketones as a byproduct.
In addition to being a healthy energy source for the brain and heart, ketones combat diseases like diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
In the study, the researchers asked 20 healthy adults to complete two 36-hour fasts while staying hydrated.
Each fast began after a standardized meal, the first fast starting without exercise and the other with a challenging treadmill workout.
Every two hours while awake, the subjects completed hunger and mood assessments and recorded their levels of B-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), a ketone-like chemical.
Exercise made a big difference: when participants exercised, they reached ketosis on average three and a half hours earlier in the fast and produced 43% more BHB.
The theory is that the initial exercise burns through a substantial amount of the body’s glucose, prompting a quicker transition to ketosis. Without exercise, the participants hit ketosis about 20 to 24 hours into the fast.
The team says if you carb load or eat a huge meal before you fast, you may not reach ketosis for days, even if you do exercise, so you should eat moderately before fasting.
There are definitely certain people who shouldn’t fast, such as those with Type 1 diabetes, and obviously, it’s detrimental to fast 24/7. But for most people, it’s perfectly safe and healthy to fast once or even twice a week for 24 or more hours.
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The study is published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. One author of the study is Landon Deru.
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